Employers not doing enough to guard against violence at work
Scotland’s third sector is failing its workers by viewing violence at work as “inevitable.”
Trade union Unison is now running a campaign to highlight that violence at work is not an automatic part of the job.
It has published a new guide – It’s Not Part of the Job – aimed at workers in the community and voluntary sector, who the union says are most vulnerable to violence at work, and looks at policies for tackling workplace violence.
It follows a survey carried out be the union last year, which highlighted shocking levels of violence experience by third sector workers providing public services - half said they had been physically assaulted.
Unison community and voluntary sector members said violence, especially in care roles, is often frequent and sometimes daily.
All of those surveyed had reported at least one violent incident to a manager.
Only 56% said their report had been followed up and only 44% felt the report was taken seriously.
A female project worker with a large care charity said: "The majority of people we work with are on the autistic spectrum and many have extreme challenging behaviour.
"I have been verbally abused, hair pulled, scratched, bitten, punched, kicked, pushed, objects thrown at me and spat on.
“It makes me feel worthless. I reported some of the incidents – only if I was injured. We would be told this is the young person's normal behaviour."
Deborah Clarke, Unison’s head of community, said: “We know from the direct experience of our members in the community and voluntary sector that violent assaults on workers, especially in care jobs, are a huge problem.
“This is made worse partly because it is regarded by many employers and others as just ‘part of the job’.
“Violence at work, in any form, is not acceptable and is not part of the contract of employment.”
A male support worker with two other large charities described his experience of violence as "People lashing out, threatened when things out of your control don't work out, these things constantly happen in the disability and learning disability sector – usually on a daily basis.
“I feel awkward, useless, powerless, wondering where the backup – real not verbal – comes from?"
Some employers appear to see violence as inevitable, unpredictable and therefore uncontrollable - Dave Watson
A female support worker in a large care charity said she had been "spat on, had items thrown at me, swore at, locked in a room."
As a result she had felt "inadequate, teary, stressed, anxious, unsupported."
Dave Watson, Unison’s head of policy and public affairs, said: “Violence at work is a major occupational hazard for too many workers.
"While physical attacks are the most serious form of violence, verbal abuse and threats are much more common and can have long-term health effects.
“This does not mean there are easy simple solutions that can immediately eradicate all attacks on staff. However, some employers appear to see violence as inevitable, unpredictable and therefore uncontrollable.
“We hope this guide will give our members the means to ensure that violence is never part of the job.”